Monday, November 22, 2010
September was coming. I always begin to fall in the Fall. And lovies, I fall hard. But this season was worse than others. I came home from Xavier and my marriage fell apart (I was afraid to tell you). Seam by seam I watched it unravel. I tried to stop it. And then I didn't. And then I did, but it didn't seem to matter, and then I got angry and didn't give a damn. The kids went to school and my brain seemed to scramble. I became so disorganized. I abandoned daily community prayer, unwittingly damaging my relationship to my community. And then I abandoned prayer period. When I started my job my immune system was assaulted. I had virus after virus, infection after infection. It felt as if the lights went off and God was gone. Winter came very early for me. In my soul I was cold, light was absent, and the ground of my heart was fallow.
It became clear to me that the only meager defense against the onslaught of awful in my life was prayer. I did not return to the community prayer that rooted me in love, friendship, and tradition. No, I dragged on alone, and begged God thousands of times a day to help me. Help my children. Show me what to do. All I could see at home was hurting people, and I had no idea how to help them. I ranted and raved. I stopped speaking to my Beloved Jesus, accusing, "You can help me but you won't! Where are you?" and then, a few days later, I'd beg him for help again.
One day, Nia, Abbie and I were at the library. Books have been fine helpers to me, and I begged, "Please, pretty please, Lord, help me. Send me some guidance." I looked up and Finding Water was in front of me. I'm going to confess, I tend to lean toward spiritual classics often written by people who are dead. Now and then I'll read a luminous volume, such as Mary Karr's Lit, or Kathleen Norris' Acedia. That ol' Ragamuffin's books always please me. My spirituality is catholic. Note that little "c." I'm into a universal church, but there are certain leanings that I have and they are definitely Catholic with the big "C." I have been a little snooty about books that don't fit that bill. The Artist Way was one of those books I've dismissed, even though I've known for years it's helped countless people.
I've had a copy of The Artist Way for years, and I thought, "I wish this was a Christian book." I can't believe I was so judgmental now, because the principles in The Artist Way are Christian at the roots, so simple, and friends, God is in the simple things. Finding Water, part of the series, is about the art of perseverance. If I needed one thing at that time it was to persevere amid all the chaos in my life. What surprised me was I found in her book the language of recovery. The slogans that have kept people sober for decades began to sober me, as drunk as I was on despair. "Let go and let God. "Easy does it." "Show up." "You do the quantity. Let God take care of the quality." I began to slowly release my grip on the situation, along with my illusion of control. I did not expect God to do what I could do for myself. I asked him to give me the serenity to accept the things I could not change, the courage to change the things I could, and the wisdom to know the difference. I asked for him to show me his will and give me the power to carry it out. I began to look for water. I found it in a communion chalise mingled with wine. I found it frozen like beads on a fallen leaf on chilly morning walks to work. It hid in beauty. I found it again bubbling in my dry soul. And yes, I found it in that book, and the tools Julia Cameron recommends: morning pages, artist dates, and walks! Baby, did I ever walk. And my healing began to emerge.
My marriage is still unwell. Very unwell. I don't know if it will survive. I have a lot of ashes leftover from the many fires that had to be put out recently. But ashes are useful. If you have a little sackcloth, you can sit in them and repent. If it's lent they make wonderful crosses on your forehead. Okay, those ashes come from last year's palm fronds. But what a wonderful metaphor: the ashes from your life as your cross, your sign of remembrance that you are dust, and to dust you will return. Your ashes indicate your deep, ever present need for God.
So, I've found my water, friends. I take my walks. I'm a little short on artist dates, but I'm working on that. I've started writing again, for fun, to feed my soul, and for editors to purchase! And now I've returned to you, asking you once again to forgive me for making such a mess of things. But most of you know I always return, a little worse for the wear, a little wiser. This time I'm twenty pounds smaller! And I'm ready to begin again. Advent is coming, the season of penance, and followed by Christmas, the season of joyous celebration, and frankly, very good eating, we'll begin our 3D journey again, at the new year, taking it up at the half way point where we left off. I have a wonderful prayer book to tell you about, that my community is excited about. Despite myself, life is good. God is good, as they say, all the time, even when you can't see that.
Thank you for staying with me.