Five or ten years ago, I would have been irritated by my mother’s request that I accompany her and my dad to church on Christmas Eve. I found myself intellectually unable to reconcile the “God” of my childhood with the “God” that the right wing religious pushers claimed would rain down fire and brimstone upon anyone who did not get “saved”, anyone who was born homosexual, anyone who did anything outside of the religious dogma that they claimed was RIGHT. What about the Buddhists? What about the Muslims? What about the beautiful souls who I worked with who were mentally unable to make such leaps of faith, and who live in a world of the present, without question or fear of “where did we come from”, and “where will we go when we die”?
I just couldn’t understand the concept, and I began to recognize that there is reason in the universe, that science and technology was making great strides to answering important questions about our place here on earth, and that perhaps blind faith and literal interpretation of the Bible weren’t going to fill the hole in my heart. I started seeing the world beyond
In the meantime, I was on a path of self-destruction. I drank when I knew it was something my body could not handle. I drank to laugh, feel good, have fun, talk to others, fit in, meet people, and fill time. In reality, as my drinking progressed and my body continued to find ways to attempt to wake me up to the reality that the craziness needed to stop, I drank and threw up, fell down, drove drunk, stumbled, lost a front tooth several times, scraped my knees, tumbled down my stairs, slept late, missed work, and allowed my next drink/ next night out/ next event take priority over everyone and everything.
I wasn’t finding whatever it was I was looking for, and nothing made sense in a “bigger picture” way. Jesus was not in the bottle of Chardonnay.
The drinking madness ended abruptly with the Great Pancreatic Incident of 2005-2006. But in addition, there was the long and seemingly never-ending illness, pain, weakness, wounds, drains, hospital stays, wonderful doctors, asshole doctors, and miraculous friends and family who appeared regularly to carry me through all of it. Many people put me on prayer lists across the country at their churches. People sent cards telling me they were praying for me. People who I never would have expected to SAY such a thing, let alone do it, told me they prayed for me. When the nights were long and intense and the progression of the disease had worn me down to nothing, I was literally and figuratively on my knees and wasn’t strong enough to get back up, I started praying. To whom, I am not sure. But something had to give.
I gained a new and deeper appreciation for my friends and the community of
So here’s what I think I am comfortable with saying about the “God” issue. I think that spirituality is infinitely more important than religious dogma. I think that I like the way I feel when I am grounded, centered, at peace, enjoying life by the moment instead of life by the drop. I like thinking about and discussing spirituality and how we can all lead better lives, do good things, and love each other unconditionally. I like to pray and meditate. There. I said it. It works for me… I think that “God”, “Jesus”, “Buddha”, or “Allah” lives within each of us and it’s up to us to unlock that potential and utilize it to heal ourselves, to help others, and to do the right thing. I think there’s a definite reason that almost every major religion has some form of the “Golden Rule”.
Most importantly, however, is that I feel that I’ve opened up to the possibility and potential of some sort of positive energy within the universe and within myself. I think that everything that happens to us is a lesson. If we don’t learn the lesson, it will keep coming back to teach us until we get it right. I think that nothing happens without reason, whether we like it or not, and that sometimes we get exactly what we prayed for, for good or bad. Also that sometimes the answer is there, I just may not like it. Most importantly, though, is the sense of GRATITUDE that I feel every single day… to be alive, to be surrounded by people that I love and admire, and to have the chance to help someone else whenever possible.
So… blessings. I’m glad I went to church. I slept through most of the sermon, but I got a big hug from a high-school friend that I haven’t had a real conversation with in years, who was surviving her first Christmas without her daddy, but came up and hugged me and told me she’d been praying for me. My mom got the chance to announce in church that she was so happy to have her now-healthy daughter home with her this Christmas, and the congregation applauded. I got the chance to thank people in person for their thoughts and prayers. I consider those things the blessings that I got from going with the parents to church.
More blessings: I got to see extended family… my favorite (only) aunt, my twin uncles who are volunteer fire-fighters and who busted ass to save my parents’ house earlier this month. I got to spend time with my cousins, and was able to laugh when my mom blurted out some extremely embarrassing information about me to the whole family. I got to have my roommate join us for Christmas eve and morning, and got to see the look on her face when my grandmother announced to her that she wets her pants, you see. I got to hang out with my parents and nap on the couch, and my Daddy did my laundry for me in their new, kick-ass washer and dryer that Farmer’s Insurance paid for after theirs melted in the fire. I walked around the now empty house with my mom and thought about how incredibly lucky we all are that the fire occurred in the evening when everyone was awake. What a blessing that my uncles were able to keep the fire from spreading, and knew the layout of the house. That people in the community where they live and in my mom’s work community pitched in to help in countless ways. I saw the charred ceiling directly above where my mom’s bed was… the fire on the third floor was on its way down to the second floor. I didn’t have a hard time shopping for Christmas gifts for them this year, as they lost all their clothes, shoes, bedding, etc. since the fire was on the floor where the laundry area was. I’m going to sit down and make sure I know exactly what my home-owner’s insurance covers, after seeing how great my parent’s insurance is.
I got an email from my friend Lulu last night that broke my heart. She had a very similar experience a few nights before Christmas… fire took her laundry room and damaged her house. Everyone got out safe and sound. I know her parents and siblings and boyfriend are doing everything they can for her. I know that the community she lives in, the one she works in, and the one she plays in will all be there to help her and her young son. I know that the Goddess Collective will be there in any way needed. I know she’s counting her blessings also this Christmas; she’s just doing it from a hotel room, and quite possibly may be naked. I think she may have lost all of her clothes. But she’s one of the people who greatly influenced my sea change since the beginning of 2005. She’s an inspiration and an incredibly positive and encouraging woman. She makes the people around her want to be better people. She lends levity and light to any situation; I hope that there will be a way I can return the favor to her this time.
In the meantime, I’m counting my blessings. I’m grateful for:
My sobriety. I don’t think I could see all of this clearly without it.
My health. I've come a long way from New Year's Eve 2006
The ability to pray again, to reconnect with the God of my childhood. This would be the one who I just talked to constantly as a kid, believing that I could turn any problem or question over to, and things would turn out just as they were meant to be.
The chance to be with family and friends this Christmas and New Year.
The beautiful brown dog that’s getting noticeably older and slower in recent months… I need to love her a whole bunch right now.
The friends I have at home in Lawrence, my pets, my community, my neighbors, and my house.
The chance to be healthy and functional enough to finally make new friends, including one particular friend who gives me butterflies when we’re together… and even when we’re not. Regardless of the outcome, there are possibilities and lessons to be learned… it’s good to have that spark of hope again.
I hope that as you read this, you’ll think of your own blessings, possibilities, lessons, and dreams.
And I pray that during the coming New Year and beyond, you’ll feel peace, hope, joy, and love in abundance.