Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
December 8: I Feel Like Giving Up
Well, it’s December now. The year is almost over, and lately I’ve been wondering what’s going to happen when my experiment is over. Sometimes I feel like I’ve gotten into a habit that, now that I know how great it can be, I will never totally give up on, even if I do take breaks—even very long breaks. It’s something I’ll always come back to, always aspire to. Other times, though, I feel something else.
I feel like giving up.
And actually, most of the time I feel both: Praying without ceasing is something I will never give up on completely—but it’s something I often may not want to do right now.
And that’s where I’m at today. For the past several weeks I haven’t meditated much. I haven’t always felt very good, very inspired. And I definitely haven’t prayed without ceasing.
More than that: I haven’t even tried.
A few nights ago I was thinking about my next step, thinking about whether I was ready to start again, and I came back to where I began with this whole thing. When I started this journal in January there were two main hesitations I had about the experiment—two things that caused me to delay the actual start date by several months. One was that I was afraid it wouldn’t work, that I wouldn’t hear from God about what to do and where to go and what to say, et cetera. The other was that I just didn’t want to give up control. The first I can say that I’ve pretty much let go of; I have only to remember a few key experiences this year to prevent that fear from materializing. It’s that second one—the one about control—that still feels true to me even though it doesn’t do me any good.
I hate. Giving up. Control.
I really, really hate it.
When the baby won’t fall asleep at naptime. When my husband isn’t available when I’d like him to be. When I can’t make my own decisions without someone else’s input, and that person is nowhere to be found.
I live a very self-directed life. I have no set work hours, no particular workplace to go to; I work where and when I see fit. I see friends and take the baby out and run errands, all at the times of my choosing. On any given day my shower could happen at 9 a.m., 2 p.m., 9 p.m. or not at all. I do not live by a schedule—but I always plan my day. I plan how many and approximately which hours the baby will be asleep, and what I will do during that time. I plan which items on my to-do list can be completed and which will have to wait. I plan what to cook, what fun thing to do that evening, and on and on and on.
I am always, it seems, planning something.
The freedom and flexibility that I have in my life is awesome. The stress that I take on by being so high strung is most assuredly not. My worst days (I remembered yesterday) are not the days when I get into an argument with someone or even the ones when I feel fat. The worst days I have are the ones in which the baby doesn’t stick to my schedule and I end up missing something I wanted to do. The anger that I feel, the annoyance, the stress . . . It’s just not fun. Not at all.
And really, it isn’t me. I’m not high-strung, actually. I enjoy life. I’m pretty cheerful most of the time (not naturally so, but I’ve taught myself this skill over the past few years with good success).
I’m just very Type A, that’s all. And not only am I Type A—I like it that way, too. It’s how I achieve so many goals in such a short period of time. It’s how I find purpose in my days.
It’s just the way I like to be.
And so, that’s the truth of the matter. The truth is that I’m afraid that if I give up this control, it will all fall apart.
I won’t write books anymore. I won’t “use my time wisely.” I won’t be able to work and make money while still spending as much time as I do with the baby. I won’t read as many books. My to-do list will grow longer and longer by the minute.
I won’t get anything done.
Or, maybe I’ll get a lot done—but not as much as I could have. If I get too spiritual, I think, I’ll just hang out watching flowers grow and children smile and forget to look at the clock.
I will get things done. But not as many as I could have.
And that, that single thought, is the thing that keeps me from my goal.
Thankfully, I know the solution: Giving up control. Making plans, but staying flexible at the same time. Asking for guidance and direction in every decision I make throughout the day and then following it, even if I don’t want to or if it seems to make no sense.
If I could do that consistently, what could possibly stand between me and my goals?
And so, as always before when pondering these things, I make the decision once again to start to pray without ceasing. Right now, right after I put my pen down, I will ask for the Divine’s guidance about what to do next . . . and then I’ll do it. I will put the Spirit to the test, and see if I still get everything I want to do done, or if it all comes crashing down as I fear it will.
Here we go. Starting . . . now.
December 9: Limbo
Failed again. Yesterday. After writing that last entry, I listened for guidance on what I was supposed to do. Though I didn’t get a very clear message, I made the best guess I had at the moment: I did a crossword puzzle. The baby was down for the night, Jack wasn’t home and I didn’t know how to hook up the TV (long story). So, I took up an old hobby—and it was nice. Not ecstasy or anything, but nice. After a while Jack came home and we hung out for a while—and I very promptly forgot all about my resolution to pray. Then we went to bed.
This morning when I woke up I remembered. I prayed a little, then got distracted by the baby and the morning. Later I remembered again, and got distracted again. And now I am sitting in the car as the baby sleeps, and I’m remembering again.
And I feel like giving up.
I can’t do this. I have no deep thought to attach to that statement right now. I have no insightful psychoanalysis behind the whole thing like I did yesterday. All I have right now is the conviction that no matter how good it feels (and is) to pray without ceasing (or to come as close as I can to doing so), right now, it just is not happening.
And yet, I am not actually giving up. Being this willing, being this spiritually conscious, this close to God, is one of my most precious goals in life. I want to write a hundred books and have a passel of children, and do some other crazy things that I need not tell you about here, but this spirituality thing—this is the most important goal of all. This is the thing that won’t disappoint me, won’t fail me, ever. This is the thing that makes me feel good in a lasting, sustainable, circumstance-independent way.
This is what makes me really happy.
So, right now I am choosing to take a break from praying without ceasing. But remember October 6? Remember how I told myself that was my start date and that’s what would make me stay on this path? Well, I am going to hold to that. October 6 is still my start date—I just need a quick little break.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to take a break. I don’t want to choose to be less in touch with God, less fulfilled, more dependent on circumstances for my happiness, more unstable. I don’t want any of those things—not at all. But if I could have made myself become a better person overnight, it would have happened already.
And so, this is not the end; this is just a delay. And really, it’s not even that. I know that as I let go of this goal, the journey I’m on right now to find more oneness with God will not come to a screeching halt; it may even go faster. The only way to grow into something else is to first allow yourself to be who you are now—to accept yourself, faults and all, and to fully experience whatever it is your soul is trying to teach you by choosing to be the way you are.
And so, that is what I’m doing: I’m accepting myself.
I’m allowing myself to be flawed.
Because no matter how much I think I want to change, the truth is that deep down inside, I don’t.
When I really want to change, it will happen.
And so, here goes nothing. Today, I’m doing exactly the opposite of what I’ve done at the end of my past few journal entries. Instead of deciding to refocus, reprioritize, try harder, today, I’m choosing not to try at all.
I am setting myself free.
I’m going to be as pigheaded as I want to be. I’m going to be as controlling as I want to be. I’m going to schedule stuff, and work as hard as I want, and check things off my to-do list at a rapid-fire pace.
I am going to let myself go.
Then, when I’m done, I’m going to sit back and rest, and ask myself what it all meant.
It’s funny; in a way this experience feels like it did several years ago when I was in limbo about whether or not I wanted to still be a Christian. Long after I had given up going to church, long after I stopped believing some of the teachings, and long after I had decided to (gasp!) date non-Christians, I still hadn’t gotten rid of the label; I still called myself a Christian.
Of course, that’s not what I’m doing here; I know that this change is only temporary. But as when I wasn’t really a Christian but wasn’t ready to admit it yet, right now I am not the person I want to believe that I am, either.
I am not experiencing divine connection on a daily basis.
It’s humbling, really. I have in my recent experience known what it’s like to live the kind of life that would make me the most fulfilled, and yet—I am turning it down, choosing my control issues instead.
I’m going to take a break from my goal, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it at all.
(Okay, maybe I will feel a bit guilty. But I’ll get over it, I’m sure.)
(a few minutes later)
I changed my mind. I can’t give up. I can’t take a break—or at least I can’t admit to myself that I’m taking a break. I can fail a million times, but I cannot give up.
God, what do you want me to do next?
December 17: What Is Prayer, Anyway?
Today, I discovered a form of prayer that until now I didn’t even know existed. How did this happen? It happened by sitting on a couch.
Before I tell you about that, though, let me remind you of the spiritual practices that in my life I’ve (knowingly) experienced. Most of them I’ve mentioned in this book already. They are:
- Saying affirmations;
- Meditating by feeling my inner body;
- Meditating by repeating a mantra;
- Asking my spirit for guidance in my actions both small and large;
- Saying prayers of thanks repeatedly;
- Writing affirmations;
- Keeping a journal of answered prayers;
- Listening to spiritual music;
- Singing spiritual and uplifting music;
- Reading spiritual books;
- Smiling, even when I don’t feel like it;
- Doing good deeds for others; and
- Reaching out to friends.
And, as I told you before, it’s my belief that if I’m doing any of these things, I’m in prayer.
Today, though, another glorious practice joins the list. It is deep, and it is beautiful, and it is this: just . . . remembering.
Do you know what I mean by just remembering? Well, just in case you don’t, here’s a little story about how I discovered it. After I tell you this, I’ll talk about what I think it is.
Last night I had about forty unscheduled, baby-free minutes to enjoy before going to bed. I was too tired to read, and it wasn’t quite enough time for a TV show or movie, so I decided to sit on the couch and do nothing—to merely have a peaceful little think.
And so, that is what I did. As I sat I reviewed the mundane and beautiful events of the day. I thought about the walk I took with the baby during which he saw his first worm. I thought about eating dinner with my husband at Chipotle, enjoying the food and feeling grateful that I didn’t have to cook. And then I started thinking about my house.
About my house there is only one thing you need to know, and it is this: I love my house—love, love, love it. It is brown. It is orange. It is peaceful and muted and warm. It is clean and it is empty and it is fully baby-proofed and it is exactly like I want it to be.
I appreciate it.
And so, because I had nothing else to do, last night I just sat on my couch, appreciating it. And it was during this reverie that it hit me: my house is not just a house—it’s a person. It is a being—a growing, changing, giving, receiving, loving, living being. It is part of our family, and it speaks to us every day.
It was like what Eckhart Tolle says about feeling the aliveness in your body and using that as a portal to the Divine. I was feeling the aliveness, not of my body this time, but in my surroundings instead.
That teddy bear has something that isn’t made of atoms, I realized. That laundry basket has it, too. If someone—some great or even just very good photographer took a picture of those objects in just the right light at just the right angle, he would prove my point. He’d be able to convince anyone in a single glance of a truth that is so often overlooked, namely: even the salt and pepper shakers are profound.
So—she’s alive. My house, to me, feels alive. The solid parts—the bricks, the carpet, the curtains—are all different aspects of her personality, and the air isn’t just the space between those things; the air is filled with love.
At least I believe that it is—and I don’t think that I’m the only one. Interior designers see love in chairs and tables. Musicians hear love in music. Doctors see love in the human body. Everyone sees love in, not just someone, but something.
And here’s where I get tied up in logic knots, but bear with me: Seeing and feeling love and beauty is called worship. And when we worship something, it’s because it’s a form of God. And when we worship something while at the same time realizing we’re doing so because that thing is a form of God—that, I believe, is prayer.
And it is by this logic (which is really more faith than logic, I admit)—it is by this logic that I have a new definition of prayer. That definition is “to remember that something is God.”
And so, that is what I’ve decided to do. When I don’t feel led to pray about anything in particular, even a prayer of gratitude, I can remind myself to do something else that is every bit as good—go through this other portal, so to speak. I can look at my surroundings, wherever I might be, and remember that everything I see is Spirit, and is love, and is meaningful, and is alive. I can remind myself that there is a kind of magic all around me—the kind that can’t be seen but must be accessed in other ways instead. Then, I do that right then: I just sense it; I sense the unique expressions of God in it all.
I simply remember—nothing more complicated than that.
Why did I ever think it should be?
December 28: Change Is an Actor, Right Behind the Stage
December 28 today: three days till the end of the year and the end of my experiment. You know what that means. It means the time has finally come to do what I’ve been looking forward to doing all year long, namely the final friend list review.
Here is that review:
Friend Number One (responsive)
Friend Number Two (unresponsive) Friend Number Three (unresponsive)
Friend Number Four (still responsive)
Friend Number Five (unresponsive) Friend Number Six (unresponsive) Friend Number Seven (unavailable) Friend Number Eight (uninteresting) Friend Number Nine (unresponsive) Friend Number Ten (unresponsive) Friend Number Eleven (unresponsive) Friend Number Twelve (unavailable) Friend Number Thirteen (unresponsive) Friend Number Fourteen (unresponsive) Friend Number Fifteen (unresponsive) Friend Number Sixteen (unavailable) Friend Number Seventeen (only mildly responsive) Friend Number Eighteen (only mildly responsive) Friend Number Nineteen (only mildly responsive) Friend Number Twenty (only mildly responsive) Friend Number Twenty-One (unresponsive) Friend Number Twenty-Two (unresponsive) Friend Number Twenty-Three (unresponsive)
Friend Number Twenty-Four (occasionally responsive)
Friend Number Twenty-Five (responsive)
Friend Number Twenty-Six (unavailable; she moved away last month)
Friend Number Twenty-Seven (occasionally responsive)
Friend Number Twenty-Eight (occasionally responsive)
Friend Number Twenty-Nine (responsive)
Friend Number Thirty (untested)
There are several recent changes to this list, and most of them are pretty disappointing ones. Friends Eleven, Thirteen and Fourteen, as well as Seventeen through Twenty, are all from my church—and all of them are now crossed off the list. The reason isn’t that I don’t like them, and (more surprisingly) it isn’t that they don’t like me. We see each other every Sunday, and have a lot of nice talks—and it seems that for them, that’s enough.
For a time, I thought that might be enough for me, too. Recently, though, I’ve realized that it’s not. Though I can appreciate having them as part of my larger circle of acquaintances, to me they are not true friends.
A bit harsh? I dunno. It’s just the way I feel, not a prescriptive thing. None of those four (or anyone else from church, actually) have initiated contact with me outside of church hours, and I’ve decided that just won’t do—not for me.
The other subtraction from the list is Friend Thirteen, the kind writer. Thirteen is super busy with her current projects and as I’m not sure I’m going to continue with the writing group past this year (lately it’s felt a bit boring), I doubt our friendship will pick up.
And so, that’s it. That’s what I’ve achieved friendship-wise this year: three potentially close friends out of thirty, plus one friend of limited closeness—a success rate of over 10 percent.
And when I think about it, these results really don’t seem all that bad. I don’t have a best friend, or someone I consider right now to be a very close friend, but I do have a couple of good candidates. And there are several others that may be a part of my life for a long time to come—the moms in the moms’ group that don’t call me back, for instance, and the church members that prefer to keep their distance. Too, both of these groups will be for me an ongoing source of new like-minded friend possibilities.
And so, in conclusion, I liken my friendship experiment to those people who send spam emails. The response rate is always dismally low—something like .1 percent is what I’ve heard. But it isn’t the rate that matters, you know—it’s the end result.
And the end result makes some of those companies very, very rich.
Thus, my friendship review is complete, with qualified success being the final result. Now let’s get down to what you’re really interested in, namely: the praying without ceasing. Clearly, my connection with God isn’t what I hoped it would be at the end of this year. But looking back, I do see progress. I learned how to meditate, and I’m doing it now and then. I’m praying for guidance much more often, and getting it. I know how to tap into the energy of my body, and when all else fails, I’m at least remembering.
And there is something that I’m not doing, too, that’s just as important as what I am doing: I’m not letting thoughts of failure get to me. I’m optimistic. God is everywhere. God loves me. God is good. Eventually, I’ll get where I want to be. I wanted a miracle this year, but what I got instead was a foretaste of what I want to be and where I’m going. The miracle will come. But my miracle might take longer than I thought it would.
It might show up one day at a time.
The way I see it, change is like the actor, waiting in the wings just backstage. He is practiced. He is prepared. He knows his lines. And yet—he is not actually playing the role yet.
He is still waiting for his cue.
I, too, am waiting for my cue, but don’t worry—that doesn’t mean I’ll stop preparing myself for opening night.
Epilogue: I Can Float Now, and I Have Friends
Last night, I had a wonderful dream. I dreamt I was at a park playing on the playground, practicing a new ability I’d discovered: the ability to fly a little in the air each time I jumped. I flew in and through and around the various obstacles, sort of floating, like they do in certain martial arts movies. It was wonderful and awesome, but one thing about it was rather strange: the other people in the park that day took no notice of this highly unusual sight; the whole time I was there, no one even looked in my direction. I wanted to show them what I was doing, to explain to them how to do the same, even though at the same time I knew it wouldn’t be right for me to do so—not yet.
I was still learning it myself.
And so, I suppose that if I were to sum up this entire year in a single sentence, this would be that sentence: I did not learn how to fly this year, to truly pray without ceasing as I so wanted to do—but I just may have learned how to float.
That isn’t my only post-journal update for you though. As it turns out, there’s something else I gained from my year of effort and experimentation, namely: I now have friends. And when I say this, I am delighted to add that these aren’t potentially close friends, or friend possibilities—these are the real, genuine, reliable, calling-me-back-after-I-call-them, spending-time-together-several-times-a-month-and-having-meaningful-conversations kind of friends. Yup, you heard that right: there isn’t just one of them—there are four. Can you believe it?
I have a group of good friends.
There are two sort of interesting, sort of instructional things about this development. One is that though I still go to my moms’ group and I still go to church, neither of these places is where I found my friends. (Well, one of them did go to church once, but that was it.)
The other funny thing is who these women actually are. Three of them are over ten years older than me. One is a Christian and one is Jewish. Another one is Hispanic and English is her second language.
Unlike the people at my church and in my moms’ group, these women are actually pretty different from me.
And so, what I’ve learned about friendship is this: friendship is not scientific. You can’t make a list and fill it with people you think you’ll have things in common with and expect it to work out. In fact, you can’t make a list at all. Like falling in love, the only things you can do are to look and to wait.
In any case. As a way to celebrate my success I will tell you a bit more about these wonderful women.
Friend Number Twenty-Five is someone I already told you about; she’s the one I met while walking the baby. She is an avid reader, an artist, a homeschooling mom (as I plan to soon be) and a pianist. We take walks regularly and, since she’s my neighbor, spend some time at each other’s houses, too, just visiting. Twenty-Five is one of the most positive people I know—and one of the most talkative, too.
Friend Number Twenty-Nine, the one I first met at church, is a Tarot card reader, a lesbian and a businesswoman. Her spiritual beliefs are very similar to mine and we often (mostly?) talk about the way those beliefs affect our lives. She is a wise, perceptive person, great at giving advice without making you feel stupid. (I know: major bonus.)
Then there’s Friend Number One, whom I’m actually a bit surprised to see included in this list considering our awkwardness at times. Though I’m not as close to One as I am to the others, we see each other often and her husband is friends with mine, which is nice. She is a doctor, a mother and an outdoorsy type, and very kind and thoughtful. I look forward to getting to know her a great deal more.
Finally, there’s Number Thirty-One. Thirty-One, not previously on the list, is a mom, a businesswoman, a wife, a hard worker and a natural optimist—and she has one of the kindest, most—well, most enlightened faces I’ve ever seen in anyone under the age of sixty. I met her a month or so into the new year and now we see each other almost every week. What I love the most about her is captured in a single word: she is genuine. Number Thirty-One says what she feels, and what she feels is almost always positive. When she’s happy, she says she’s happy. When she’s grateful, she says that, too. When she’s tired, she admits it but gently. Shortly after we met she told her mother about me and how grateful she was to meet me—not just once but many times. And she said this to me as well.
It’s such a rare and lovely thing to feel appreciated.
It has only been a few months since I finished my experiment, and a few months is not long enough to be able to predict the length of my new friendships with any certainty. But what I can say is that unlike before, I now know what I want in a friend—what I require in a friend, even. Positivity is important to me—much more important than it used to be. So is maturity and so is respect—but it is genuineness and sincerity—an ability to be oneself and to be vulnerable—that is the most important quality of all.
And so, after twelve months of hard work, the reward for my efforts has arrived. I have four good friends, and though I have not yet found the level of divine connection I’d hoped to find, the voice that I’ve been listening for all year is becoming more and more clear.
“You’re getting closer,” it’s telling me. “Closer to people and closer, too, to having an ongoing experience of the Divine. The most important goals of your life are even right now being realized, Katie: You can float now, and you have friends.”
And for now—at least for now—I’m going to be content with just getting closer.
Babies come. But babies don't go. Get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Story on Amazon now.