The Journey Back
After a series of injuries (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and that worst injury of all - repeatedly having to shower at 5 am in cold water in the dead of a New York winter because something is up with the hot water in our building) I found myself in the middle of a crisis of faith. Indeed, I was finding it difficult, almost impossible, to believe in anything. I stopped believing in dreaming, in goodness, in kindnesss, in honour, in love, in people, even in God. Throughout my life I have always believed in something - especially God. Mind you, I haven't believed in the God that everyone else believes in; my God was a personal one. I have tested the waters with many different religious groups and found that the best belief system for me was to take what I wanted from each of those religions and apply it to my life.
There is a Mezuzah on our front door.
There is a Buddah on the altar where I pray.
There is a cross on a chain around my neck.
Anyone who enters our home knows that their faith is welcome here -- so long as it is a faith based on goodness. I don't know anyone whose faith is based on a belief in commiting pain against others and I don't want to. The open door, open faith policy has been in effect in our home for some fifteen years.
During the week between Christmas and New Year's, I took off my necklace. I put my Buddah away, as well as the incense, the candles, the tingshas and everything else on my altar. I ceased blowing a kiss to Jesus as I passed St Malachy's Chapel on my way to the gym. I stopped believing. In everything.
Dudes, that is a cold and barren place. Living in a state where you believe in nothing is like being in a choppy and dark sea in a boat with no oars. It is like being shot out into space and left there, to float in the darkness, for an undetermined amount of time. I wouldn't wish, on anyone, the journey into the dark that became my life for the last four weeks. To be stripped of your belief system after four and a half decades of building that system, brick by brick, is a lonely row to hoe -- my belief has been my rock and my God has been my best friend. My husband has remarked, often, on how God is my best friend, how he has noted that every minute of the day I seem to be talking to God. It's true. The phone would ring and it would be good news and I would blow God a kiss, in gratitude. Walking in the park, I would see a particularly beautiful glade of trees and stop for a moment or two of chanting. Out for a run, unable to continue because of exhaustion, I look up into the sky and feel myself being pulled forward. I'm not a religious fanatic - I just have a strong connection with the power that guides me. I'm not a Christian. I'm not a Buddhist. I'm not a Jew. I have my own faith. I call it StephenIsm.
But dammit. It was gone. I've been living and moving about but empty. I wondered if it would change back or if I was going to be this way forever. I talked to Pat about it and to Doctor Bowler. I have touched upon it to one or two close friends; but no more than that. I sequestered myself so that my loved ones wouldn't see me in this state. I did, though, touched upon it in my online writing, be it on blogger, in a Facebook survey or even my status messages. I have not, though, been completely forthcoming about it, publically, because it's private. As a blogger I made myself a promise that I would always be honest in my writings; but there comes a point when a person is over sharing and I didn't want to get to that point. It's difficult to be an optimist who has bad days because then you can't share yourself with the world; it isn't a side of you they are used to seeing and it might not go over well. I have learned that my M.O. is to beat the problem and then share the story. That's the way it worked with my alcoholism. I beat it, I told about the journey. Weight issues; beat them, told the story. Mind you, those journeys took YEARS.
I'm older now. I'm wiser. I know the value of dealing with things with expediency and getting on with your life. For that reason, I have spent almost every waking moment focusing on the events that dropped me into this abyss, healing the pain, forgiving the perpetrators of those injuries, moving on and restoring peace to my house, and I don't mean Two-A, I mean my house.
It's not happening as easily as it should. It's a struggle this time, especially since I am STILL waiting for them to do something about the dangnab cold water in which I have to shave my head ( it burns, man ).
This morning, though, I was doing the laundry (every weekend at seven am - either day) in the freezing cold (which I hate but try not to complain about because, after all, I choose to live in New York City)... And that is what I thought of.
I live in New York City. It's where I want to live; and I live there, with the love of my life. That's a good place to start. I began to make the list of happinesses in my life, so as to lessen the control of negativity on my breathing pattern. It actually isn't a long list ... but it's long enough. With each new entry on that mental list, I felt the colour return to my cheeks and the strength in my stride double, until I was walking home from the laundromat, into a blinding sun against which I refused to shield my eyes. If I have been lucky enough to be granted the blessings I have, there must be something out there worth my belief, whether it is dreams, people, Mother Earth, Santa Claus or a God none of us seem to be able to decide upon. For awhile, during this rough sea, I felt immense freedom from the lack of pressure to believe in something... but that isn't me.
I am an optimist.
That is what is at my core.
So I got on the phone with my spiritual touchstone this morning and talked a bit and listened a lot. Then I went to my desk and picked up the tiny gold chain that lay in the Side by Side by Sondheim souvenir dish and put it back on. The little gold cross is, once more, nestled in the dent of my collar bone. It's time for me to step back into the light. Wiser, yes; cautious, oh yes; jaded and mistrusting, definately. This is how we become the mosaics that we are - those new pieces lie beside the brighter, more hopeful, more idealistic pieces of me; but at least they are all together, walking in the light.
The next step is the rebuild my belief system and my altar.
Then, God and I have some serious talking to do.