Now, some people are mortified that I did this, that I spoke this way to Him. I mean, He's God. He could, you know, smite me and stuff.
Now that I put it that way, I guess He kind of did.
The hubris of issuing demands like this to God notwithstanding, it really wasn't such a bad request. The terrible, wonderful magic of it all is that in my sheer desperation, in my certainty that my life was meant to contain more joy and less stress than this, a tiny crack appeared in my prideful heart. I mean, it was itty bitty, a hairline fracture, really. But it was evidently enough for God's Big Toe to wiggle in and force open the door. "For if You desired sacrifice, I would give it; You will not be pleased with whole burnt offerings. A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit. A broken and humbled heart God will not despise." (Psalm 50:18-19, Orthodox Study Bible)
Thank God for desperation profound enough to make me vulnerable. Thank God that it found a way for the walls around my life, my ideas, my heart, my firmly-held beliefs around who I thought I was supposed to be, to crack and subsequently crumble. Incidentally, these were walls that I built, or chose to have built, around my life. And He showed me unequivocally where those battlements were weak.
Once God kicked in my door, with Love in his eyes and with a gentle "You wanted Me to do this," He set fire to my life. He created the very sacrifice He needed from me.
It was far more brutal than I imagined it could be. Two days after issuing that demand, my most recent work injury was exacerbated by an incident on the job in which a sweet 4 year old Indian boy begged me with tearful eyes to "hold [him] tight" while his mother and a case director pulled thorns out of his bare feet, which he acquired while exuberantly playing Scavenger Hunt. As requested, I held him tightly and tried to distract him with silly questions ("How many eyes to do I have?"), as he struggled against me in reaction to the pain. By the following day, I could no longer work. My neck injury was simply too painful.
Once again, the doctor put me on limited work status, and gradually my clients disappeared from my schedule. The final straw was losing my favorite client, again without a chance to say good-bye. (They finally relented and let me say good-bye a month later, which was still horrifically painful.)
But in addition to that, one of my best friends, a woman with whom I shared a loving and soulful bond (we were the Dancing Depth Psychologists) moved to Boston. And two weeks after that, the person I was seeing, with whom I thought there was a deep bond, dissolved our relationship. Within 6 weeks of asking God to radically change my life, He had done so in an immensely painful way. I fell into a deep grief that lasted until the new year.
The thing is, at the time, I knew this was answered prayer. I just knew it. I knew God was trying to get through my thick skull...something. But I couldn't figure out what He was trying to say. I understood that transformation was occurring. Of that I had no doubt. It just hurt so much.
I don't remember a whole lot from that time. I didn't dance much, because of my injury, so I lost that conduit to joy. I hadn't found a parish that felt like home to me, although I'd visited a few. I wrote dark poetry to try to express some of my turmoil, but mostly I remember waking up every day and trudging to work, then coming home to either sit numbly in my room, or hang out with a few friends, including my housemate, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was a blessing to me. Anyone who thinks that God only blesses us with people who share our religious practices is missing out. Elizabeth is a professional astrologer, a wonderful massage therapist, and a spiritual leader in her community. We were an unlikely pair - me with my icons of saints, her with her crystals - but we worked. I firmly believe that God knew I'd need someone strong enough to live in the same house with me while I went through my painful struggle, and loving enough to nurture me through it. We would take walks with my dog late at night, after she returned from work, and talk. We only ever encountered one other person playing with his dog that late at night (it was usually around midnight), a friendly man with a Russian accent, and we'd jokingly speculate that only Canadians and Eastern Europeans would ever be out that late acting for all the world as if it was daylight. Silly dayfolk, thinking the day ended when the sky turned dark. Sometimes we watched Firefly or V on her computer, drinking beer and eating popcorn. Elizabeth's friendship and love created a space that allowed me to feel all of this without judgment. And when I needed it, she could make me laugh until we both snorted.
My grief, while punctuated by pain (and also joy), was mostly characterized by a terrifying numbness. It ended when a few things happened within days of each other.
1. I almost died on Christmas Eve.
2. I went to a performance of the band to which my former romantic interest belonged. Misunderstandings ensued.
3. Things started exploding in my purse and backpack.
After visiting some friends on Christmas Eve in The City (San Francisco), I was on my way home when a giant GMC pickup (a 2-ton truck maybe? - it was beastly), started to turn left, apparently not seeing me in the intersection (I had the green light). The driver stopped his vehicle less than 6 inches from my driver's side door. I looked past the great big GMC on the grill into the mortified faces of the people in the cab of the truck, and realized I was flinching, waiting for the impact. I kept on driving, numbly realizing that I had been spared, but not knowing why. I just kept muttering, "Why did You spare me? Why didn't You take me?" The only thing I could think of was that there was still some purpose to me being on the planet, although I couldn't possibly fathom what it was. The previous few months had all but convinced me that what I should really do is close up my heart for good, so that nothing and no one could get through, except for my family and a few close friends. If I got a better job, I'd make sure I didn't open up to clients or form any deep connections. It was safer that way.
A few days later, I decided to attend the musical performance of my former romantic interest's band. He played guitar for the band, and I really enjoyed hearing them play again. As I watched him, I realized that I absolutely adored hearing him play. It was wonderful to be able to share that again, and it made me feel good to know that our struggle to maintain a friendship in the aftermath of the breakup at least resulted in my being able to enjoy this once again. He really was brilliant at what he did. I barely talked to him after the show. I was more engrossed in talking to my friend, Tiffany, who was also there, so I gave him a quick hug good-bye, and he told me it was good to see me.
A few people mistook my attendance there, and my joy at hearing the band, for an inability to let go. However, for me it felt like the beginning of real release - from him, from grief, from what my expectations had been. I could just go and enjoy the music, and appreciate him for his gifts.
Or not. Two days after that, he banned me from attending all future performances, for fear that it would upset his new girlfriend. He didn't even have the guts to introduce us. Release complete. I don't like cowards.
Just after the new year, I opened my purse to find a bottle of ibuprofen had popped open, spilling its contents all over my purse. A day later, the same thing happened in my backpack with a container of chocolate covered raisins.
Now, being trained in depth psychology, I tend to look at events like this with an eye toward symbolism. It's like reading your life the way you would a dream (Carl Jung advocated this approach). If these two events had been in a dream, how I would I look at them?
I wrestled with this elsewhere, and this is what I came up with:
"On the second and third days of a brand new year, something in the dark places I carry around with me has opened up. The words that came into my head when I started to make the connection were: